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Death and Dying

A diverse selection of helpful teachings on death and dying from the Shambhala Sun magazine. Just click any article's title to read further.

The Supreme Meditation

Larry Rosenberg explains how contemplating our death can transform the way we live.

Ultimately You're Healthy, Relatively You Die

Four Buddhist health practitioners — Barbara Rhodes, Jan Chozen Bays, David Shlim, and Mitchell Levy — discuss how relaxing our hopes and fears about health, sickness and death can lessen our suffering and help us recognize that, whatever happens, our true nature is always healthy.

This Silence is Called Great Joy

Before you can answer the question, “What will happen to me after I die?”, Zen teacher Thich Nhat Hanh says you need to answer another question, “What is happening to me in the present moment?” Examining this question is the essence of meditation. If we don’t know how to look deeply to what is happening to us in the here and the now, how can we know what will happen to us when we are dead?

Waking Up to Your World

“Since death is certain, but the time of death is uncertain, what is the most important thing?” asks best-selling author and teacher, Pema Chodron. Throughout our day we can pause, take a break from our usual thoughts, and wake up to the magic and vastness of the world around us. This easy and spacious type of mindfulness practice is the most important thing we can do with our lives.

No Time to Lose

Pema Chodron offers her unique perspective on The Way of the Bodhisattva, Shantideva’s classic description of the Mahayana path. Here she addresses one of the most important of all spiritual questions—how to free ourselves from the powerful spell of emotional afflictions.


Koan Practice: The Great Way is Not Difficult If You Just Don't Pick and Choose

Home to care for his dying mother, Zen teacher John Tarrant discovers what it means for himself and those around him to give up picking and choosing.

Suffering's Not the Only Story

In the midst of great personal pain and confusion, says Sylvia Boorstein, we can be alive to the momentary gaps where our minds change course. In these gaps, all kinds of experience— compassion, insight, even humor—can arise.

Relaxing with Suffering

"I'm certain that compassion is the only possible response to pain,” says Sylvia Boorstein, “yet I still sometimes become resentful when I or someone else is suffering."

The Blue Poppy

A blossom’s beauty is undiminished by the true, sad fact that it won’t last forever, maybe not very long at all. When Kathleen Willis Morton’s baby dies, she learns to appreciate the flower-like beauty of his brief life.

The Art of Losing: On Writing, Dying, and Mom

Novelist Ruth Ozeki’s touching memoir of life in a Japanese-American family is also a profound meditation on love, stories, and the difference between losing and letting go.

The Cult of Quick Repair

"To write," says award-winning novelist Dede Crane, "I get a good daydream going and write it down." Here is her short story about death, Buddhism, and almond canoes.

Death Don't Have No Mercy

In this memoir of her mother’s death, Mariana Caplan says there are thousands of moments each day in which we are offered the opportunity to practice surrendering to what is: to the traffic keeping us from an appointment, to another’s suffering, to an unpleasant thought, to the many things that do not go the way we would like. All these moments provide an opportunity to engage life in the moment, surrendering to it as it is, as well as preparing for death and the call for final surrender.

The Zen of Joan Didion

Her masterpiece The Year of Magical Thinking is a meditation on the human mind both pointed and profound. In that year following her husband’s death she learned in her bones the basic truths we so often deny—death, impermanence, and aloneness. David Swick profiles Joan Didion, a great American journalist observing her own mind and experience. 

Smile at Fear

When we face difficult circumstances — as so many people do these days — fear can overwhelm us. Carolyn Rose Gimian shows us how we can discover the fearlessness of the great meditators — by welcoming fear as a precious opportunity to open up and let go. And that can make us smile.

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